Thursday, May 23, 2013

Obsession with ‘Chinese betrayal’ poisoning Malaysia’s post-election discourse

Obsession with ‘Chinese betrayal’ poisoning Malaysia’s post-election discourse

BY Jahabar Sadiq
Editor
May 23, 2013
Malaysian Insider 
Utusan Malaysia has been going after the Chinese for their lack of support for BN, leading to its recent banner headline ‘Apa lagi Cina mau?’ — File picMAY 23 — Nearly three weeks after Election 2013, politicians and businessmen returning from Putrajaya speak of a dejected atmosphere there with Barisan Nasional (BN) leaders thinking and talking in terms of betrayal of the Chinese and non-Malays in Malaysia’s latest polls.

Many believe that these leaders should stop thinking or talking so, because it poisons the post-election discourse. In coffee-houses and boardrooms, the chattering classes say such talk will further split a country already divided by class and income.

They point to several snap analyses that show that most of the voters cast their ballots largely marked by national issues, location, income levels, age groups rather than the simplistic view that a “Chinese tsunami” further eroded BN’s support.

“There are leaders who are in a group think mode, amplifying among themselves that the Chinese betrayed BN, not the other races. They still think in terms of race,” said a politician returning from the Prime Minister’s Department in Putrajaya.

“The Chinese deserted the MCA more than anything else, due to ideological reasons, not because of race,” he added.

The MCA, an original founding member of the Alliance that was later replaced by BN in 1974, only won seven of the 37 federal seats it contested in the May 5 general election. It had won 15 in Election 2008.
The poor results led to the party sitting out of the Cabinet that Prime Minister Datuk Seri Najib Razak announced on May 15, leaving only Transparency International Malaysia president Datuk Paul Low as the only Chinese there.

Najib was among the first to note the plunging Chinese support for his coalition hours after the polls and it later became a recurring theme for Umno-owned media, leading to Utusan Malaysia’s banner headline “Apa lagi Cina mau?”

The Umno-owned daily has also been defensive about its stance against the Chinese community, gathering a number of little-known groups and Malay activists to defend and run down critics, including AirAsia X chief executive officer Azran Osman Rani.

“This situation is bad for everyone, not just the Chinese. We need BN to get out of this funk and move on, get the support of all races for the country’s good,” a businessman told The Malaysian Insider.
“Right now, the country is being poisoned by talk of betrayal,” he added, noting no BN leader has come to quell such talk and push forward reconciliation.

A quick survey showed that apart from losing the Chinese vote, BN also lost a fair number of Malay votes in its bastion and birthplace Johor, Kelantan, Selangor and Terengganu.

Several pollsters agreed, saying they were waiting for detailed results to work out support by each community or by class, location and age group. “The results are spotty right now but there have been gains and losses in terms of votes by any particular community,” said a pollster.

Independent online research house PoliTweet.org pointed out that PR won in 59 mixed-race federal seats, almost double its 30 wins in Chinese-majority seats in Election 2013, debunking BN’s claim of a “Chinese tsunami”.

Politweet also said the ruling BN gained most of its votes from rural federal seats while PR increased its support from urban and semi-urban areas in the Southeast Asian nation chasing developed nation status by 2020.

“BN represents the rural majority and can retain power with rural and semi-urban seats alone. This election highlighted PR’s weak areas which are rural seats, Bumiputera Sabah-majority and Bumiputera Sarawak-majority seats,” said the report, which can be found on PoliTweet’s official blog.

According to PoliTweet, 108 out of the 133 seats (81 per cent) won by BN came from rural seats, while PR won urban or semi-urban seats with almost the same percentage (72 out of 89 seats).

PR won all 16 urban Chinese-majority seats, 12 urban Malay seats and12 urban mixed seats, giving it 40 out of the total 43 urban seats (93 per cent). In comparison, BN only won four urban Malay and one urban mixed seats.

Out of the 54 semi-urban seats, PR won 34 of them (63 per cent). BN won the rest, with Malay semi-urban areas making the bulk of it at 12 seats.

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